I found this story on Shawni's beautiful blog and it spoke to me in a way that I knew I couldn't not share it. At this time when we pause to reflect on the year past and plan for the year to come, I hope I can remember how to keep Christmas in my heart all year long.
"For Christmas is a beautiful time of the year. We love the excitement, the giving spirit, the special awareness of and appreciation for family and friends, the feelings of love and brotherhood that bless our gatherings at Christmastime.
In all the joyousness, it is well to reflect that Christmas comes in three levels:
Let’s call the first the 'Santa Claus level.' It’s the level of Christmas trees and holly, of whispered secrets and colorful packages, of candlelight and rich food and warm open houses. It’s carolers in the shopping malls, excited children, and weary but loving parents. It’s a lovely time of special warmth and caring and giving. It’s the level at which we eat too much and spend too much and do too much–and enjoy every minute of it. We love the Santa Claus level of Christmas.
But there’s a higher, more beautiful level. Let’s call it the 'Silent Night level.' It’s the level of all our glorious Christmas carols, of that beloved, familiar story: 'Now in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…' It’s the level of the crowded inn, and the silent holy moment in a dark stable when the Son of Man came to earth. It’s shepherds on a steep, bare hill near Bethlehem, angels with their glad tidings, a new star in the East, wise men traveling far in search of the Holy One. How beautiful and meaningful it is; how infinitely poorer we would be without this sacred second level of Christmas.
The trouble is, these two levels don’t last. They can’t. Twelve days of Christmas, at the first level, is about all most of us can stand. It’s too intense, too extravagant. The tree dries out and the needles fall. The candles burn down. The beautiful wrappings go out with he trash, the carolers are up on the ski slopes, the toys break, and the biggest day the stores in the entire year is exchange day, December 26.
The feast is over and the dieting begins. But the lonely and the hungry are with us still perhaps lonelier and hungrier than before.
Lovely and joyous as the first level of Christmas is, there will come a day, very soon, when Mother will put away the decorations and vacuum the living room and think, 'Thank goodness that’s over for another year.'
Even the second level, the level of the Baby Jesus, can’t last. How many times this season can you sing 'Silent Night'? The angels and the star and the shepherd, even the silent, sacred mystery of that holy night itself, can’t long satisfy humanity’s basic need. The man who keeps Christ in the manger will, in the end, be disappointed and empty.
No, for Christmas to last all year long, for it to grow in beauty and meaning and purpose, for it to have the power to change lives, we must celebrate it at the third level, that of the adult Christ. It is at this level–not as an infant–that our Savior brings His gifts of lasting joy, lasting peace, lasting hope. It was the adult Christ who reached out and touched the untouchable, who loved the unlovable, who so loved us all that even in His agony on the cross He prayed forgiveness for His enemies.
This is the Christ, creator of worlds without number, who wept, Enoch tell us, because so many of us lack affection and hate each other–and then who willingly gave His life for all of us, including those for whom He wept.
This is the Christ, the adult Christ, who gave us the perfect example, and asked us to follow Him.
Accepting that invitation is the way–the only way–to celebrate Christmas all year and all life long."
"The article was written as a Church News editorial by William B. Smart, and appears in his book, Messages for a Happier Life (Deseret Book, 1989), pp. 33-34."
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love having an iPod touch. It's so nice to be able to take pictures of things, but not have to worry about lugging around my DSLR sometimes. As my dad says, "The best camera is the one that's always with you."
So here's a holiday in poor-resolution, but full-of-memories Instagram photos.
There's a neighborhood in Flagstaff that for one Sunday in December, lines the streets with luminaries. It's truly beautiful and a tradition we will begin. Next year, we want to bundle up and walk through it.
I picked up this bad boy at Safeway one night. Divine.
We went to Sedona with some friends the Monday before Christmas. I love the drive to Sedona, but there was a strange heavy fog that made it nearly impossible to see on the trip down. Anyway, there's a resort there called Tlaquepaque that has a bunch of light displays that you can walk through and then vote on. Some of them are really creative!
One of my favorite parts of the resort is the shops. They have this charm that I love. I can't wait to do a photoshoot there someday.
My sister stayed with us for the week after graduation until Christmas. She loves me, but not my camera.
Of course, we had to take her to get some YogurtU.
Mesa Temple Lights on Christmas Eve Eve.
Silly sister on Christmas Eve at Grandma's. This almost didn't happen this year, but I'm so glad it did. PS, aren't Kyndra's glasses cute?? I helped her pick them out.
TJ and my cousin's baby. She is so adorable. And he's pretty smokin' with that baby in his arms.
Opening presents at the in-laws on Christmas Day. Like my bird-feather bangs? Me too.
Christmas was simple and sweet, as it should be.
TJ spoiled me, and I tried to return the favor.
But really, it was about being together and with our families,
I last left off on my journaling at the beginning of the month, with my mom's 50th birthday. A lot has happened since that time.
We had a roommate ornament-making party that was a lot of fun. Somehow....I didn't get a picture of Emma. I'm lame I know.
Plus also, I graduated. I promise my apartment was clean before it was invaded by family.
My grandparents came up with my family and my mom brought along her beloved birthday iPad.
I couldn't zip the stinkin' gown. So Dad helped. Also....notice anything different about me?
Yeah, I colored my hair. I told my stylist to do what she thought would look good, so she did an ombre with a few highlights near the top. This way, since I'm lazy/don't spend a lot of money on my hair, I won't have to get it touched up for a while.
This really cute guy told me he cried. How sweet is he? I was so happy to be done I didn't even think about crying.
Two of my best friends ever travelled up from Mesa all brave-like just to come to my graduation. Love you girls!
Mi hermana-in-law, Hannah.
Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa hates the cold, so I was touched he would suffer through it at 86 just for me.
Brothers-in-law, Nathan and Brady.
Adopted Aunt Michelle who graduated from ASU last year, and is now working on her Master's.
SIL, Aubrey. Glad she braved the snow too :)
Mi hermano, Sheldon y mi hermana, Kyndra.
After the commencing, we had a little party at my in-laws. Mexican food was served and all was merry and bright.
Even though TJ didn't walk, he finished his Associates at CCC! He's going to NAU in January, as part of the business and accounting programs. I am so proud!
In other news, I interviewed for and was offered a position as an Administrative Assistant at NAU. This will be a huge blessing to us, as the benefits of a full-time university employee are very nice. TJ will be going to a university for about the same price as a community college, and we will both have great health benefits. I'm so grateful to see the Lord's hand in my life as the pieces just fall into place.
Jessica Harrison: [viewing from horseback, after Jim saves Jessica and they kiss, a change coming in the Aussie mountain weather] It changes so suddenly. One moment it's paradise, the next it's trying to kill you. Jim Craig: Yep, that's how it can be up here. If it was easy to get to know it, it would be not challenging. You've got to treat the mountains like a high-spirited horse; never take it for granted. Jessica Harrison: It's the same with people, too.
[From The Man from Snowy River]
Sometimes I think life is like the mountain weather.
I can prepare for a bad snowstorm. Get groceries, wear warm clothing, hope for school cancellations. The weather reports may all say it will be big, and it could be bad. I can dread the snow or look forward to it.
And then, in a totally unpredicted manner, It only snows an inch. And I can see sharp, icy blue through the gray clouds. And I'm glad I was prepared, but not for the thing I thought I was preparing for.
Yes, life is very much like this. I prepare for one thing, only to get another. I can plan my life out all I want, but I am constantly reminded that while it's important to prepare, I'm not the one in control.
I find, that if I put my trust in the One who guides the mountain weather, He will guide my life as well.
I went there to surprise my mom, whose birthday was on the 5th. (Unfortunately, TJ couldn't come due to work and school.)
But not just any birthday.
Her 50th birthday.
She doesn't look a day over 35, I tell ya.
She treated my sister and I to lunch. A little backwards, but oh well. At least her sandwich was free.
[sister is stubborn when it comes to pictures.]
[Firehouse Subs. It was warm and toasty. I got the turkey club.]
The surprises didn't stop there though. Around 6 o'clock, my siblings and I left, saying we were going shopping. Then, Dad and Mom left to go to dinner. Dad said he wouldn't tell her where, but that she would like it. They wound up at Rancho de Tia Rosa, the best Mexican restaurant in Mesa (and quite possibly all of Arizona). Their server mistakenly took them to the wrong table at first, but that got cleared up quickly. When they walked into this little pink room, Mom was assaulted with shouts of "Surprise!" and a robust round of "Happy Birthday" from her family and friends.
[The Hassell's and Eyrings.]
[Mom's siblings and parents.]
[I ordered the Stuffed Quesadilla with pork as my meat of choice. Pork is always my meat of choice there. I only ate half because I think I ate about 3 baskets of chips and salsa before Mom even got there.]
Happy birthday Mom! I love you so much and I am so lucky to have such an amazing woman as my mother. You are my inspiration and I will forever look up to you.